Comfort for Anxiety, please, hold the guilt trip.

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photo credit: Big Grey Mare Tree Planted By The Water via photopin (license)

Meditating on God’s word is an effective way to counter lies both from our own anxious minds and spiritual attacks. When tempted, Christ himself defeated Satan by countering with what it was written in the Bible. I am a student of the practice, not a teacher. And please continue any medical treatment you are on, but I’ll share what I’m learning with you.

The basics are to recognize our emotional states, identify the lies influencing us, and pick verses that effectively contradict them. When it is the devil, say it loud, with authority, and he will back down if there is no other factors at play.

When it is physical brokenness or our own wounded hearts, that is another story. Christian Meditation still can calm our minds and soothe our heart, but you have to repeat your chosen text many times, really chew on it to get it worked down into the hurting places where God is working.

In selecting texts, many of us tend to go to a concordance named Google, who reports back its top-ranked online lists of verses. “Bible on Anxiety” turns up some excellent websites. That said, nigh any list of Bible verses on anxiety includes verses with some variant of “Don’t be anxious.” For our purposes, that may not be the best choice.

In the proper context, “don’t be afraid” is a soothing reassurance. But “don’t be anxious” typically is a command, and the law tends to provoke anxiety, not relieve it. Now, if you commanding yourself to not be anxious a thousand times or so does relieve your anxiety, great. If it only heaps a guilt trip on you and makes you feel condemned, though, please skip that one.

So what does work?

First, read the most infamous verse in context. It begins Paul’s recipe for defeating anxiety. The full passage is far more helpful. However, it is not a text to meditate on, it is instructions for countering anxiety, which includes instructions on meditation. It doesn’t have to be God’s word, though God’s word is most powerful. An effective Christian meditation is “whatever” is in line with Biblical truth and is good, just, honorable, pure, and lovely. It can even be a visual from God’s word and/or of the good things of God’s creation. One image from the Word that I find helpful is of a tree planted by water, with its roots plunging right down into the stream. Secure in God’s steadfast love.

Second, get specific. What exactly are you anxious about? What provokes it? When it isn’t strictly chemical, persistent fears often arise from negative core beliefs about ourselves and others. A negative core belief is a false belief your heart harbors even when your conscious mind knows it is a lie. This subconscious fear will still influence you so long as it remains buried in your heart. It can backfire to answer your own heart the way you should answer the devil. As a wounded heart feels things, anything said in a harsh tone is speaking death. To speak life, swap out strong rebukes for a gentle, loving tone as you counter old lies with the corresponding truth about your identity in Christ.

Third, don’t rush yourself past the stage of identifying the lies your heart is holding onto to avoid “speaking death.” God can still hear you “speaking death” in your heart. It is still manifesting in your life. Face it. Admit it out loud. It is okay. You must grab hold of it to get it out. What to be wary of is latching onto it only to wallow in it. Meditation, speaking life, is more effective if we first identify the lies embedded like thorns, confess them to the Lord, and get him to remove them.

Fourth, sometimes God says no to removing such thorns in the flesh. That no is nothing to be ashamed of; it happens even to the best of us, namely the Apostle Paul himself. What God did through Paul was phenomenal, yet the man was never able to overcome the shame that had him declaring himself “the worst of sinners” over his actions before he was a Christian, despite his own teachings on the grace of God. There are times when God has a reason for our struggle, such as making his strength perfect through our weakness; in some cases, God is using our very weakness to strengthen us in his power.

Finally, here are seven Bible passages that work well as verses to meditate on to combat various kinds of anxiety. At least they comfort me and the Facebook friends who answered my short survey. Feel free to shorten these as needed, but read them in context the first time. The exact wording isn’t vital for meditation purposes, so long as it reflects the Bible’s intent and meaning.

Psalm 62 Meditation: God is my rock and my salvation, my fortress. God is a refuge for me.

2 Timothy 1:5-12 Meditation: God has given me a spirit of power, a spirit of love, and a spirit of self-control (which promotes the sound mind some translations mention.)

Matthew 19:23-29 Meditation: “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

Isaiah 26:3 Meditation:”You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.”

Isaiah 41:5-13 Meditation: The Lord is with us and he is our God. He will strengthen us. He will help us. He will uphold us by his righteous right hand. (From Isaiah 41:10)

Psalm 139 Meditation: God knit me together in my mother’s womb. Praise you, God, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works, including myself. (Bonus prayer: Search me, O God, and know my heart. Show me what grieves you. Lead me in the way everlasting.)

2 Cor. 4. 7-10 Meditation: I am afflicted (or hard pressed) but not crushed. I am perplexed but not in despair, persecuted but not forsaken. I am struck down but not destroyed.

Psalm 4:8 (ESV) “In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.” (This meditation is perfect for anxiety at bedtime.)

Again, you can’t breeze through this. You have to chew on the truth; sustain focus on the verse or the Bible-based meditation for several minutes at least. Try pairing it with instrumental worship music, relaxing nature sounds, or visualizing the beauty of God’s creation. Also, keep your breathing slow, deep, and rhythmic, as if you are breathing in the truth of God’s word. Feel free to let me know what works for you and which verses are your favorites. Peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus!

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Terror by night

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I’ve been attacked in my dreams for the last two nights. I wake up but can’t move, I see the room and there are dark shadowy figures moving around me. There are flashes of lights swirling around the room. Last night, I kept feeling a hand on my shoulder and I realized it was not my husband’s, the first thought that jumped in my head was that it was my father’s. He had a very strange suicide almost two years ago which has affected me in ways unimaginable. But I’ve grown and felt like I was letting it go. I recently sent off a package to the Department of Homeland Security to work with ICE and had asked God to bless the package and job opportunity. That was Sat morning and these dreams started right after. I woke up this morning fearful of everything. My children, my mother, my husband. The last thing I need to do right now is lose my mind. What does it mean? and what can I do?

–Julie

This sounds like an episode of a sleep disorder the doctors call sleep paralysis. When we dream, we’re supposed to be paralyzed (when we’re not we call this sleepwalking). According to webmd, when you’re still conscious as you enter REM, or regain consciousness before it ends, hallucinations and terror are the frequent result. Mind you, such physical explanations don’t eliminate the spiritual angle. It’s altogether possible, in some people, the state opens a window providing a glimpse a into the spiritual realm. Given your situation, the trigger could have been stress, the enemy, or both.

A simple test is to rebuke the scary presence in the name of Jesus. If the enemy is involved, at a strong rebuke from a child of God, the enemy will flee and you should awake properly. If it doesn’t work, and the scary visions aren’t reacting like demons, then it’s from just the natural causes.

Regardless, scripture is good medicine. Reciting scripture meditatively has gotten me through anxiety attacks. For when you’re falling asleep, “I will lay me down in peace and sleep, for thou, Lord, only make me dwell in safety” (Psalms 4:8) Otherwise, assuming you know the Lord, inform the enemy, “greater is He who is in me than He who is in the World.” Psalm 91 is also a balm to the soul in such times.

Was the hand comforting and protective or malevolent? It could have been the Comforter (in other words, your Heavenly Father) if you didn’t sense malevolence in the touch. One can encounter the Lord in such states as well as the enemy of our souls.

Of course, if the devil is fighting you, that usually means you’re on the right track–but sometimes we fight ourselves, too, so keep alert.

In Christ’s Peace,

Andrea Graham

P.S. If you are curious, Sleep Paralysis is just one of at least Twenty Fascinating Sleep Disorders. The link is to a Pillow Picker article with a good summary of them. Not necessarily a product endorsement.

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